Representatives of the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its CEO Albert Bourla could soon be denied access to the European Parliament, following a request from the Green group to ban Pfizer’s representatives.
Led by French MEP Michèle Rivasi, the proposal was put to the Parliament’s committee on COVID (COVI) on Wednesday.
All political groups voted in favour of the ban, with the exception of the European People’s Party (EPP) and Renew Europe, which voted against it. The majority was enough to pass the vote.
The precedent for banning a company’s representatives from the Parliament dates back to 2017, when the environment (ENVI) committee voted to bar officials from the US-based agrochemical corporation Monsanto following its refusal to participate in a public hearing.
Redacted contracts and the SMS affair
In the early months of the COVID pandemic, the EU purchased vaccines in bulk from several pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer/BioNTech, in order to deliver them to member states as quickly as possible.
However, Pfizer’s contracts have remained redacted.
“The EP has a right to full transparency on the details of this spending and the preliminary negotiations that led to it,” wrote Kathleen Van Brempt, chair of the COVI committee, in a tweet last December.
In both October and December, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla refused to meet with COVI MEPs.
“I think he deliberately did not come, because he did not want to face the controversies,” French MEP and COVI member Véronique Trillet-Lenoir told EURACTIV.
The Pfizer boss was due to explain himself about the so-called SMS affair, in which contracts pertaining to 1.8 billion vaccine doses were allegedly directly negotiated via private text messages between Bourla and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Final decision expected in a month
Following the vote, the Conference of Committee Chairs (CPC), which brings together all committee chairs every Tuesday during plenary sessions in Strasbourg, will give its opinion.
The CPC will consider several options: the duration of the exclusion, whether the sanction will apply only to Bourla or to all Pfizer representatives, or whether it is upheld at all.
According to a spokesperson for the Green group contacted by EURACTIV France, the decision is not expected for at least a month.